The killing of the head gardener at the Alaska Zoo has been tied to a 33-year-old man who police say stabbed the gardener to death after an altercation in the zoo parking lot.
The man, Clayton Charlie, has been charged with first-degree murder. He also faces a slew of other charges, including vehicle theft, assault and harassment, court records show.
Police say the episode started when Charlie stole a Chevy Tahoe about 2 p.m. on Nov. 4, from a residence on Vance Drive where he used to live, charging documents say. He also violated protective orders related to domestic violence that day, at the same residence.
By about 7 p.m., Charlie was in the zoo parking lot. It wasn’t immediately clear why Charlie was there. But he encountered Michael Greco, the zoo’s head gardener, and an altercation ensued, police said.
Greco was filling in as a watchman that night, according to charging documents.
Charlie stabbed the victim multiple times and drove over him before leaving the scene, police said. He then began using Greco’s debit card at a number of different locations, police said.
Detectives, using a transaction report from Credit Union, were able to obtain surveillance footage from the places were the debit card was used. Charlie visited a Chevron station in Anchorage about two hours after the murder, and a McDonald’s in Eagle River shortly after that, charging documents say.
The officers identified Charlie as the suspect, after comparing him with a pre-existing photo, and from his clothing, such as a “distinctive" dress coat, identifiable in surveillance video including from the Vance Drive residence, charging documents say.
During the investigation into the murder, Charlie was already in jail in connection with arrest warrants and the stolen Tahoe, police said. On Nov. 5, driving the stolen Tahoe, Charlie refused to pull over for Wasilla police and Alaska State Troopers, but was eventually apprehended, documents say.
Detectives recovered Greco’s debit card after it had been removed from the Tahoe.